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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

May 19, 2022

Getting under the scholarship limit used to be a hot topic on Notre Dame message boards every spring and summer. These days it barely gets mentioned, primarily because the Irish have always managed to be under it.

The numbers always work out. This is partially because Notre Dame has never been egregious with oversigning and because roster attrition is the norm. This leads into how many recruits the Irish are hoping to sign in this recruiting cycle. I think the answer, which it likely will always be under Marcus Freeman, is to be determined.

The number is going to be determined by how many exceptions they can add on top of the required numbers they are trying to land at each position. There are some players who any program is going to make room for. Defensive lineman Jason Moore‍ fits into that category, despite the number of players they already have committed at that position. He’s simply too good of a prospect to say there is no room at the inn for.

There are others like him who could fit into that category as well. We can start out at running back where Richard Young‍ (30th in the ISD Fab 50) or Jeremiyah Love‍ (40th) want to join the party, you welcome them with open arms even if Notre Dame lands a commitment from Jayden Limar‍ as a second back in this class.

Notre Dame probably doesn’t want to sign five offensive linemen for the third straight recruiting cycle, but if the final three players are Monroe Freeling‍, Charles Jagusah‍, and Samson Okunlola‍ (28th), then it would be foolish to not take them all.

The Irish already have two great safety prospects committed in Peyton Bowen‍ (49th) and Adon Shuler‍, but Caleb Downs‍ is a player that every program with a chance at him will fight to land until the bitter end. He’s that special.

The other part of this is that Notre Dame may see players decommit at some point and when that has happened in the past, it’s been more of a scramble to find replacements in the class. If that scholarship is replaced with an exceptional prospect, even if it’s at another position, that’s a far better solution than what happened in previous years.

When it comes to the recruits who have the potential to be true difference-makers, they are worth making an exception for even if the numbers don’t make sense immediately. Notre Dame hasn’t had to deal with this recently so most fans aren’t used to it, but it seems like something that everyone would love to happily adapt to going forward.

2. As a very recent offer, guard Joe Otting‍ doesn’t exactly fit into the same category as the players I just mentioned, but it is intriguing to me that he’ll be visiting campus to participate in camp during the first week of June.

That could end up being a situation where he comes in and blows Harry Hiestand and the staff away with what they see from. If that ends up being the case, then all of a sudden the dynamics of the offensive line board in 2023 could shift.

How big he is and how he takes to coaching are likely to be big factors in how hard Notre Dame decides to push for him or not. I really liked his film. He has a much twitch off the ball as I’ve seen from an offensive line prospect in the last few years.

3. I’ve always liked the idea of taking at least a couple of guys in a class who could potentially end up at multiple positions. It’s one reason why I like Preston Zinter‍ quite a bit. Maybe he’s an inside linebacker, but I would count him out as someone who ends up at Vyper.

If Notre Dame ever ends up playing more three down on a consistent basis, Zinter is someone who feels like a fit playing as an outside backer as well.

Micah Tease‍ is someone who often gets mentioned as a player who could play on offense or defense in college, which is why he becomes even more intriguing if he’s say one or three corners Notre Dame signs. I think Rodney Gallagher‍ is an electric athlete who can be special on offense, but he also could develop into a heck of a defensive back as well. Ronan Hanafin‍ is someone who I personally view as a better prospect on defense, but there is no doubt he has the talent to play receiver in college too.

It’s just another thing to think about as the process continues for Notre Dame this cycle. Maybe the exceptions won’t just be about being too good to not take in the class. Position versatility could play a part as well.

4. Naming the two best players on Notre Dame in 2022 isn’t difficult. No matter what order you have them, Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey would be a pretty great top-two for any team in college football. After those two, it’s a little bit murky.

It’s not that Notre Dame lacks talent. It’s just that who the definitive next best players on the team are is a little bit more difficult to figure out.

Jarrett Patterson is probably there, but there are about a half dozen or so other players who could be included with him in that tier. Many of those guys could also jump into that tier with Mayer and Foskey. That’s why compiling a top-25 players list on Notre Dame is challenging.

Greg Flammang and I did a post-spring top-25 list on Hit & Hustle last night, which is essentially an early take on the list that Matt Freeman and I collaborate on and then submit to NBC Sports’ Douglas Farmer for the annual Inside the Irish ranking he puts together. I know it should get easier to figure out in August, but I had a tough time figuring out the order of the next dozen players I listed after the top-two.

One thing that was interesting to me was that my top-15 was 8-7 split for offense and defense. I think that’s a pretty solid indication that the Irish have an equal number of potentially great players on both sides of the ball, even if the depth on defense is a bit stronger.

5. ISD’s Matt Freeman posted some testing numbers from 2023 tight end commit Cooper Flanagan‍ that didn’t exactly blow people away and I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion in the thread.

Most people were extremely level-headed about it, acknowledging that these testing numbers aren’t the be all and end all for high school kids. The important thing that I always think of when it comes to any testing numbers is that context matters.

Chase Claypool ran a 40 at the NFL Combine that brought up comparisons to Calvin Johnson, but in high school he ran a 4.60. Some people wanted to make him a tight end because of that. Claypool is from British Columbia, Canada, though, and track isn’t a big high school sport there. If he was more involved in track like some kids in Texas or California, he’s probably running a much faster 40 at that age.

Julian Okwara ran a 5.14 40 and had a spark rating 52.23 at 214 pounds in high school. A few years later he was doing freakish things on the field at Notre Dame. Anyone who watched his film in high school could tell that those numbers had no reflection on the athlete he was at the time as well.

My thing with high school athletic testing is that I value when a player has outstanding times. However, I’m not very quick to downgrade a player if his athletic testing looks subpar because a majority of kids aren’t treating this like they are preparing for the NFL Combine.

6. There was a really great question from ISD subscriber ekopec for Power Hour this week about whether or not we’d like to re-rank the linebacker commits after the spring based on there being more buzz with JR Tuihalamaka and Nolan Ziegler than Jaylen Sneed.

We all answered that we wouldn’t re-rank them, but this question did make me think about some previous springs where early enrollees were turning heads.

Jerry Tillery was getting a ton of praise heaped on him as a defensive tackle in his first spring. He had a bit of an underwhelming first couple of seasons at Notre Dame, but finished off very strong as an eventual first round pick.

Many were touting Houston Griffith in his first spring and the potential he showed thinking he would play early in his career. He played at nickel after Shaun Crawford’s injury, but it could be argued that the hype around him then was the high point of his time at Notre Dame.

Robert Hainsey impressed everyone with how advanced he was that first spring and then shared the starting right tackle job with Tommy Kraemer in the fall.

Bo Bauer turned heads by flying around in his first spring and although he has been a valuable special teams player and good in sub-packages the last two years, he never became a starter at linebacker.

There have been a few times I have seen a practice or two from a player as a freshman where they’ve drastically changed my view on whether or not they will or won’t be a big factor at Notre Dame, but I can count the number of times that has happened on one hand. We just don’t see enough reps from the freshmen in general to make too big of an assumption about a player’s future so it really has to swing in one direction in a massive way for me to change how I view those players.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Work ethic and luck play a big part in all of this on top of talent and the former two pieces play out over the long haul, not in the first spring for players who should technically still be in high school.

I will say that linebacker is going to be a very interesting position to watch over the next few years because the talent level is going to be very high and not everyone is going to be able to see the field. In three or four years from now, we’ll see who the winners of the marathon are at that position.

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